Ernie Paniccioli: A Name You Should Know In Hip-Hop

Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli

Renowned Hip-Hop Photographer, Public Speaker and Historian, Ernie Paniccioli (Brother Ernie), was born on February 25th, 1947 and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, USA.

Paniccioli’s career as a photographer has been monumental in documenting Hip-Hop culture and has played a key part in how we know it today. From taking pictures of Grandmaster Flash at “The Roxy” (a popular nightclub located in Manhattan in the 1970s and early 1980s), to capturing the athleticism of the legendary Rock Steady Crew, he has been in the forefront documenting Hip-Hop history from its early days.

Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli

Other notable faces that he has photographed include Biz Markie, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Queen Latifah, Notorious B.I.G., Lauren Hill, Lil’ Kim and many more.


Photo Credit: Ernie Paniccioli

Without Ernie Paniccioli we would not know Hip-Hop as we know it today. Recently, we caught up with him to speak a bit about his journey and here’s what he had to share.

Q: What nation do you belong to?

A: Cree

Q: When did you first pick up a camera? And when did your love for photography develop?

A: In the 1970s

Q: Being an Indigenous person involved in the early days of Hip-Hop, do you feel that it’s elements have parallels to Indigenous culture?

A: The drum is The DJ, B-Boys are The Dance, MC is The Story Teller and the Graffiti Artist is the Sand Painter.

Q: As someone who is a pillar in documenting various important moments throughout Hip-Hop history, what were some of your favourite moments and why?

A: All of them, my 2 books, getting inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame, Being inducted into The Source 360 Icons Award, winning a Daytime Grammy and having 120,000 of my photos on exhibit at Cornell University.

Q: What would you say were some of the biggest challenges that you’ve had to face throughout your life both as an Indigenous person and as a photographer?

A: Same as everyone else, Red and Brown and poor.

Q: What are some key takeaways that you would like folks to have from your book “Hip-Hop At The End Of The World”?

A: We can win and will win and art is in our souls.

Q: If you saw an Indigenous youth expressing an interest in photography, what advice would you give them?

A: Express yourself, do you and study the history of art and our people.

Q: Lastly, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your life? And what do you think we can all do to help each other during this time?

A: Helped me dig deeper into my archives and what we should always do. Share love, food and medicine.

Miigwech (Thank you) Brother Ernie!

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